This was written for a challenge at JulieFiannaArchive where we the story had to use 40 words from given lists of words.
Warning: There is some violence in this chapter.
Beta: Many thanks to my beta Istarnie who gave me such wonderful help in beating this story into submission.
Startled at first by this unexpected predicament, he quickly recovered, allowing his hungry mouth to press against hers, reveling in the sweetness of her lips. For once, they had been left alone to enjoy the sound of the waves and the warmth of sand in solitude without fear of reprimand. Years before he suffered when simply caught staring at the delightfully swaying form of the maiden currently wrapped in his embrace. Not only were they deemed too young then, but he was a prince and she a princess. A certain decorum was to be expected from them. Although there were no parents or siblings or assistants present to interfere and frustrate his attempts at intimacy now (his close friend and counselor and her lady in waiting had wandered off to be alone together themselves), things had not quite progressed according to his plans. However, as he now held her with no intention of untangling limbs and lips, he had to admit he had no objections. The feel of her, the taste of her were far better than he had ever imagined and he intended to enjoy every moment of it.
With a soft sigh, she finally drew breathlessly away from him. Turning quickly, she bowed her head, looking down as roses blushed fair cheeks behind the silver veil of her shimmering hair.
"My lord, I…I cannot believe I…Finarfin, I am so...I mean…I did not mean to, well, I… perhaps I did mean to, but I just...I should have..."
Giving a slight laugh, albeit a nervous one, he reached out and lovingly caressed her face with the tips of his fingers. "I did not mind," he softly reassured. "In fact I had fully intended to kiss you, but you made the impetuous decision to lay siege to my lips before I could find the courage to make my own assault upon yours."
Shaking back her hair, she turned her gaze to his, her feelings for him evident in the clear crystal of her brilliant blue eyes. He felt more sure of himself, more sure of his own heart now than ever before.
"Eärwen, I love you," he declared.
She smiled, looking so incredibly beautiful that it stole his breath away. He knew in that moment that the warmth of her smile would be his undoing forever more.
Tentatively she raised a delicate hand, her fingers tracing the line of his face from forehead to chin. "I love you, too, Finarfin." She blushed once again.
When they reluctantly broke apart from the glorious kiss which followed, she nestled her head into his shoulder, his arms wrapping protectively, possessively around her. At long last, without a doubt, she was his! Upon his return to Tirion – if he could bear to part from her long enough to return home – he would make their betrothal and wedding rings himself.
Catching his thought, she turned to face him pouting, "Must you leave so soon? You have only been here for a few short months. I thought you loved the Swan Haven."
Leaning forward, he brushed his lips across her forehead as he clarified, "I love the Swan Maiden. "
Playfully she pushed him away. "I am being serious, Finarfin. I know you love Alqualondë and I know you are far more at peace here than you are in Tirion. Why must you leave?"
"My father wishes me to return," he sighed. "He allows me to come here frequently, but I have duties and responsibilities to which I must attend there. "
"Does he put such constraints upon Fëanor as well?"
"No. Of course he does not. My half-brother can have whatever he wishes whenever he wishes. My atar denies him nothing. Nolofinwë, my sisters, and I however, are a different matter entirely," He stated matter-of-factly.
"When we," She blushed again. "When we wed, may we dwell in Alqualondë so our children can play in the sand and hunt shells and race fast ships beneath the stars?"
He laughed nervously. How long has she been planning their future? "I would dearly love to be able to do that."
"But," she continued for him with a sigh.
"But I am the one who brings peace or at least tries to when my brothers quarrel. My atar will not and my amme cannot. Fingolfin needs me most of all for we are very close. I am his confidant and the one who cools his temper when Fëanor's disdain becomes more than he can bear. I hate the unrest in my family and do not intend to dwell in my father's house once I …once we wed." He flashed her a smile. "But I have to be nearby to ease tensions so my brothers do not seek to kill each other."
"Surely it will never come to that," she chided laughingly. "No one in Aman would or could ever willingly or knowingly threaten the death of another --let alone cause it. The Valar would never allow it! You are so silly sometimes." Sitting up regally, his princess passed sentence in a most commanding tone. "And now, blasphemer, you must serve your punishment."
Suddenly his most unlikely adversary launched herself forward in a most unladylike manner, knocking him onto his back and tickling him relentlessly. Gasping and giggling, he half-heartedly struggled against her, trying to wiggle away, but to no avail. She was surprisingly good at this! Her poor brothers must have served sentence many times at her hand.
When she deemed his suffering was complete, she attempted to hold him down with her arms, but he slipped through easily, flipping her onto her back and pinning her in the sand with his body.
"Now I must retaliate," he declared as his lips eagerly sought hers. She willingly surrendered.
When they resurfaced for air, considerably more disheveled than before, he drew her back against his chest, securely in his arms once again. Intoxicated by her presence and the rhythm of the waves, his joy burst forth in song as they watched the flames dance in the bonfire before them.
He would hold the memory of this time in his heart to sustain him while he was away and to treasure every time he visited Alqualondë after this.
The flames which danced before them now held them equally spellbound, but for a very different reason. Side by side, Finarfin and Eärwenstood motionless in stunned silence, their attendants from all of those years before having come to a halt beside them as well. Slowly Finarfin looked around in growing horror as the echo of keening wails caused a shiver down his spine and deathlike cries tremored all around them. Everywhere as far as he could see, blood and bodies littered the ground. A few buildings by the quays blazed, casting an eerie glow into the mist rolling in from the sea as if Ulmo himself were shrouding the dead for burial.
How could this have happened?
"Prince Finarfin," Edrahir quietly commented as he clutched his Telerin wife to his chest in a vain attempt at hiding the carnage from her eyes. "It would appear that your brother's demand for ships from the Teleri was not as heartily received as his command that the Noldor follow him back to Middle-earth."
Sorrow and anger warred within Finarfin as he observed the effects of Fëanor's madness, noting the collection of lifeless Noldorin bodies scattered among the dead and dying Teleri. "My lord," he replied hotly through clenched teeth as he blinked back tears yet again. "Do not presume to name that treacherous snake a brother of mine! Fëanáro his mother named him and aptly so. His fire ignited the Noldor to rebellion despite my every attempt to quell them and now…now the Teleri of Alqualondë lie scorched by his flames as well!"
"I beg your forgiveness, my prince," Edrahir dutifully replied with an edge to his voice. "But I fear that the Noldor will have to do far more than beg to receive Olwë's forgiveness, much less that of the Valar."
"If Olwë himself yet lives," Finarfin answered bitterly.
"Husband, how can you even suggest such a thing?!" Eärwen rounded on him in disbelief, her pale face dripping with the signs of her grief. Facing him, she clutched his arms, shaking him angrily. "Surely Fëanor would not have harmed my father!"
Taking a deep breath, he evenly met her gaze. "Eärwen, in a very real sense, Fëanor's arrogance and pride brought about the death of my own father." Finarfin jerked his right arm from her grasp and gestured around them, his voice deadly calm. "Look what he has done to your people and to mine. He is fey. I put nothing beyond him now."
She stood staring at him dumbfounded for a few moments. Clasping her hands to her mouth, Eärwen shook her head in denial, silently pleading with him to take back his words. But he knew he could not. As her expression slowly transformed from anger to fear, he felt his heart constrict at the reality she might have to face.
"By the Valar…It cannot be so…my father? My mother? And what of my brothers? I…surely …surely they could not have…" She took a few steps backward. "I have to know, my love. I have to know." Then she turned and fled.
He lunged for her, but missed. Swearing under his breath, he took off after her, vaguely noting that Edrahir was hot on his heels though Edrahir's wife was not.
As they came upon the first building on the main street, something smashed into Finarfin's chest, knocking him to the ground. Rolling to the side, he quickly regained his feet as whatever had been waiting in the darkness of shadow descended upon him once again. Punches rained down upon him from all sides, striking whatever part of him they could reach. Too bewildered to respond in any other way, he bent low, wrapping his arms around his head to ward off blows.
"Stop! Please!" he cried out to no avail.
Suddenly someone grabbed him by his tunic and slammed him up against a wall beside Edrahir, who looked as badly beaten as he felt. The sharp sound of swords being drawn caused the next painful breath to freeze in Finarfin's chest. He stared in disbelief upon the clean polished steel of his own blade as the assailant raised the fine weapon in front of his face. Someone else held Edrahir's weapon before his face as well.
"Release him at once! Do you not know who he is?!" Exclaimed Edrahir through a broken mouth. "He is Prince Finarfin son of Finwë!"
"We know exactly who he is," the one holding the sword said. "Or we would not have treated with him so kindly upon seeing him."
Fear clenched Finarfin's heart, but not fear for himself. If he were so soon waylaid and assaulted, what might happen to Eärwen? Could she possibly make it safely through the war-ravaged streets to her father's house, or would she also be attacked because she was his wife? At that thought his heart almost failed him. But then Eärwen was also Olwë's daughter, and the Teleri were fiercely loyal to their king. That alone should be her salvation, yet he could not be certain of his wife's fate in this moment. If it had not been for the sword threatening him, he would have fought his way past any enemy to make sure she was safe, no matter what the personal cost.
"Son of Finwë!" Another said in contempt, spitting in Finarfin's face, rudely drawing the prince's attention back to the situation at hand. The Teler then turned, slapping Edrahir hard across the face. "And you, Noldo, are a fool for serving him. But then all of the Noldor are fools now. Are they not?"
"It was a son of Finwë who started all of this!" The one brandishing Finarfin's sword growled, his clothes covered in too much blood for it to be his own. "I held my brother and his wife as they died, son of Finwë." He sliced Finarfin's left cheek with the blade. "I think you should die, too, in payment for their deaths. Perhaps if we bleed you enough, our sands will be washed clean of the Telerin blood which unjustly stains them now."
A third backhanded Finarfin, splitting his lips. "And it was a son of Finwë's line who killed my son as he defended our ship."
"Stop this!" another demanded, shoving his way forward. "Does such cruelty not make us as bad as those who did this wrong to us? Should we not at least learn their part in this madness before we seek retribution? The Noldor were once our friends. We owe them that much."
"I swear to you I took no part in any of this…this kinslaying," Finarfin declared loudly, as he attempted to hide his utter dismay. So many of the faces in the crowd around him were familiar; folk who used to gladly welcome him- fishermen with whom he occasionally hauled nets, a baker whose shop he frequented, a silversmith who made Eärwen's favorite broach, a couple of potters... And now they were intent upon killing him.
Perhaps this was how the Teleri felt as they defended their piers and ships from their Noldorin friends?
And then came a thought that was almost blasphemous, striking him full force, as heavily as the man who had knocked him to the ground. Why did none of the Valar foresee this happening? Why did they do nothing to stop such carnage in their own land - the slaughter of Elf by Elf? Why had matters been allowed to go this far? The Eldar trusted the Valar… He trusted the Valar to protect them and yet they allowed this happen.
"How dare you call yourself kin of us, Noldo?" Sneered the father of the dead son. "Had you marched beside Fëanor, your blade would now be stained with our blood!"
"But I did not march beside Fëanor, did I? That should speak much of my regard for him. It used to be that all elves considered each other kin, no matter what their blood. However, in cases of both blood and race, I speak truly. My wife is Princess Eärwen, your king's daughter. You are my kin," Finarfin replied, his voice filled with grief. "You are my kin. And you are his as well." Blood dripping down his neck from the cut, he painfully nodded toward his companion. "Lord Edrahir's wife is Lady Eärliniel of the House of the Seven Shells."
"Do not flaunt your wives' titles before us!" Yet another hissed angrily.
The points of the swords moved to the captives' hearts, but Finarfin kept his voice soft and low, calmly reasoning despite his physical pain. "The only blood my sword has tasted is my own, by YOUR hand. Give us over to Olwë for judgment. It is his right and duty as your king to judge us. If he desires our deaths for what has happened, then he shall have them. But if he does not, then he surely will punish you for killing us."
"Son of Finwë, if you truly are our kin as you claim, then why did you not stop this from happening?" Someone else rebuked.
"I was helpless to prevent what I was not here to witness. I and the host of Noldor travelling with me have only just arrived within the last hour. I swear to you that I would have stopped this if I could have," Finarfin's voice dripped with bitterness. "I have not the words to express my full sorrow for what has happened, for what the Noldor have done you. Please, let no one else die a meaningless death here. If you still hold Olwë to be king, then take us to him and let him pass judgment."
After much murmuring and arguing, the angry but resigned crowd agreed to let the king judge. With cold expressions on their faces, two approached, roughly binding the hands of the Noldor while another Teler contemptuously expressed his doubts that the two lords would live much longer once the king saw them.
"After all," the ellon called loudly. "The king's own son died on the point of a Noldorin sword."
With that, someone shoved Finarfin forward, causing him to stumble, falling hard on his knees. Hauled to his feet by two of those escorting the captives, Finarfin found it difficult to match their pace as they half-dragged him to the palace. Choking back grief, the breath repeatedly caught in his chest as his legs refused to cooperate with the demands the angry mob placed upon them. Cherished memories of his wife's family flashed through his mind, blinding him to the remaining carnage in the streets around him. Desperately, Finarfin begged and pleaded with Eru to let this all be some terrible nightmare and to let those last horrible words he heard be a lie. But he knew in his heart it was all true.
Falling once more, he welcomed the embrace of the cold stone and crushed shell of the street. If he never arrived at the palace, he would never have to face the loss. Never have to know.
By the Valar! Which one of his wife's beloved brothers had died?